DeMar DeRozan saw Lonzo Ball at the Advocate Center on Thursday, the same day the Chicago Bulls announced the injury-plagued guard would undergo a third surgery in 14 months on his troublesome left knee.
Speaking at Friday's morning shootaround, DeRozan marveled at Ball's demeanor, especially given the fact this latest procedure could sideline Ball for most, if not all, of the 2023-24 season.
"His spirits have been good every time you see him, talk to him," DeRozan said. "He's a helluva dude. The strength he got to have every time we see him to be positive, being in a great mood, says a lot for him."
And that's why DeRozan's focus is on Ball's health, not the massive ramifications a potentially career-ending injury could have on the Bulls. Ball last played in an NBA game on Jan. 14, 2022.
"For me, it just gets to a point where all I care about is his well-being," DeRozan said. "It's bigger than basketball. Taking away something for so long, him not being able to play basketball, just takes a toll on him. So more so than anything, as a friend just worrying about him. I could care less about anything to do with the team. Just his mental well-being and hoping he got all the positive backing that he needs just to get through whatever it is he has to get through.
"For me, I don't even think about like, 'Damn.' You just look at it more from a human standpoint, nothing to do with basketball. I just want him to be good. That's all I care about. Basketball comes last."
DeRozan has avoided major injury throughout his 14-year career, never appearing in less than 60 games. He has appeared in 76 games or more eight times. Asked if he could imagine going through what Ball is enduring, DeRozan shook his head.
"Nah," he said. "I couldn't imagine it. It could drive anybody crazy, taking away something you love so much. Granted, we miss the hell out of him, just him being around on the daily. He was the DJ on the plane. The whole element we brought to the team, we definitely miss that. We just want the best for him. He got all our full support no matter how long it takes."
DeRozan has one year remaining on the three-year deal he signed when the Bulls acquired him via a sign-and-trade transaction from the San Antonio Spurs. He's extension-eligible this offseason. But he punted on a question about whether Ball's injury impacts his future in Chicago.
"Fourteen years in the league, I never once worried about a contract," DeRozan said. "Never. When something was going good, when something was going bad, I just never thought about it. I just went out there, controlled whatever I can control and let the chips fall wherever they may. It sounds like a cliche or a (politically correct) answer, but I never care. I just be myself and whatever happens, happens."
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